Serving the campus of the University of Alabama since 1894

The Crimson White

Serving the campus of the University of Alabama since 1894

The Crimson White

Serving the campus of the University of Alabama since 1894

The Crimson White

Cooking column: A simple yet satisfying homemade meatball recipe


The signature dish of my grandmother (Mommom to me and my siblings) is her meatballs. I grew up with these things; I don’t remember a time where I didn’t know the taste of them.

They’re a staple of Sunday dinners at Mommom and Papa’s. Whether it’s out-of-town family in for a visit or just a normal dinner, if I don’t know what Mommom’s serving, meatballs are a safe guess.

Oddly though, I never asked Mommom how she made her meatballs until this past week.

As with any family recipe it was a lot “a pinch of this” and “a pinch of that” and to be honest, I’m still not entirely sure how much “a pinch” is. A google search tells me it’s 1/16 of a teaspoon, but in terms of this recipe and how Mommom cooks, I’d guess its more like 1/4 or 1/2 a teaspoon.

Those casual measurements were one reason I was nervous to make this dish Wednesday night. Another was a fear of screwing it up. No one cooks like their grandmother. There’s something about their cooking that can’t be replicated, no matter what. So knowing it probably wouldn’t turn out the same, I gathered the ingredients and went to work.

First thing I realized is that freshly bought ground beef is best for this recipe. My roommate and I like to buy ground beef at Sam’s Club, seal it in bags and freeze it until we need it. Since we eat chicken far more often, beef can be in the freezer for a few weeks before we get to it. But next time I try this recipe, I’m going to buy ground beef that day or the day before.

So take that fresh ground beef, put it in a bowl and get ready to get your hands dirty. Once everything is in the bowl with the meat, you have to mix it all together. Now, you could do this with a spoon, but that doesn’t work nearly as well as doing it the old fashioned way: with your hands. Get in there and work that meat until all the ingredients are mixed.

Then, you have to make them into golfball sized meatballs. According to my grandfather, they should be exactly 1 1/8 inch in diameter, but he used to work in construction so he’s going to be particular. I don’t own a ruler and have no intention of measuring my meatballs so I went by Mommom suggestion that they should be about an inch to 1 1/2 inches in diameter.

After you’ve got all the meatballs rolled, dump a jar of meat sauce into a slow cooker and arrange the meatballs in the sauce. Mommom likes to save a little sauce in the jar to pour over the top of the meatballs once they’re all in there and I agree. It gives the meat and the sauce a good flavor. It’s also excellent for the pasta that you should make while the meatballs are cooking, because meatballs without pasta is just not okay.

Let the meat cook in the slow cooker for 20 – 30 minutes depending on how big you made the meatballs. Mommom said to cook on low but she has an older, more powerful slow cooker than my roommates smaller one, so play around with it until you get the temperature right. I had to bump it up to medium to get it to cook.

I definitely understand now why this is Mommom’s go-to dish. It’s quick, simple and only takes one bowl and a slow cooker. In the end, they weren’t Mommom’s meatballs, but they were still really good. One day I’ll get them to taste just like her’s maybe, but part of the taste is probably nostalgia and fun memories. For now, my roommate and I have a dozen meatballs and a pound of pasta to eat, and you won’t ever hear us complaining about that.

Mommom’s Meatballs


1 pound ground beef

1 cup bread crumbs

1 egg for every pound or meat

Salt and pepper to taste

A pinch of oregano

A pinch of garlic

A pinch of onion powder

A pinch of thyme


Mix all the ingredients together in a bowl.

If too dry add another egg or if too moist add more bread crumbs.

Roll mixture into golfball sized meatballs about one inch to 1 1/2 inch in diameter.

Pour sauce into slow cooker and arrange meatballs in sauce. Add any extra sauce over the top.

Let them cook on medium for 20 – 30 minutes depending on the size of the meatballs.

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